Bipartisan call to end 'lunacy' of Brazil cotton payments

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), in floor debate Friday, called for the elimination of an annual $140 million subsidy to Brazilian cotton growers, characterizing the program as “lunacy.”

“Sending money to subsidize cotton over there so that we can continue to subsidize cotton here is pure lunacy,” said Frank, who introduced an amendment to end the foreign subsidy.

The federal government subsidizes to domestic cotton growers, which has driven down the price of domestic cotton and allowed U.S. growers to undercut foreign suppliers. The payments to the Brazilian cotton industry are designed to assuage growers there who lose business as a result of the U.S. subsidies.

The payments were put in place as a way of settling a World Trade Organization dispute in which Brazil successfully argued against the U.S. subsidies.

Republicans joined the call for cutting the foreign payments.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said he supports the amendment “to force the issue so we can get out of these and other subsidy programs.”

Other members, however, argued that the move could create a trade war if Brazil decided to retaliate.

A vote on the amendment was postponed.

The House, as it debated a continuing resolution to keep the government financed for the next several months, considered numerous amendments, including one to cut useless weapons systems and weapon procurement systems, and another that would redirect public funds towards charter schools.

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